Here in Idaho, we’re lucky to have countless places to camp and recreate outdoors. Wherever and however you choose to get outdoors – recreating responsibly is vital to protecting you, other recreationists, and the land, water, and wildlife we all love. In this 5 part series of blogs, the Idaho Conservation League is helping you recreate responsibly with easy tips and tricks that make a difference – giving back to the lands that give us so much.

If you live and recreate in Idaho, you’re in bear country. Idaho is home to both black and grizzly bears, so it’s important for recreationists to know how to handle a bear encounter — and how to avoid encounters in the first place. 

American black bear

Here are 5 ways you can be bear aware while recreating in Idaho:

Bring your friends! Hike, camp, adventure in groups of 2 or more. 63% of the world-wide bear attacks between 2000 and 2015 occurred when the victim was alone.

Make noise! Talk to your adventure buddies, sing, shout, make some human noise. Most bear attacks are defensive, and bears are less likely to get near humans if they know they’re there! Making noise is especially important near streams or dense vegetation where it might be harder for a bear to notice your approach. If you’re alone or conversation with your companions lags, aim to shout something like, “Hey, bear” at least once every 2-3 minutes. Note that bells are not very effective.

Properly store attractants! Store food, personal hygiene products, trash, and other attractants in a bear-resistant canister. You can also hang your attractants using the Pacific Crest Trail method. Store attractants at least 100 yards from trails and campsites. Do not sleep with or burn any attractants! This includes personal hygiene items like your toothpaste, lotions — anything with a scent.

Keep dogs leashed! Dogs that are unleashed may run ahead on the trail and come across an unsuspecting bear. You don’t want your dog to have that encounter, or have that bear chase the dog back to you. Keeping your dog leashed is the best way to prevent any accidental conflicts. 

Carry bear spray! Bear spray is more effective than a firearm at deterring bears. Check your spray’s expiration date before you go, and make sure that your bear spray is accessible while you’re out — not tucked away in a backpack. Spray low, in one sweeping motion in front of you, and be aware of the direction of the wind so that the spray doesn’t immediately waft back to you. 

Bears usually do not want to encounter you any more than you want to encounter them. Planning ahead and preparing, knowing the area, and practicing these bear aware behaviors can lessen the chances of seeing a bear on your next hike or camping trip. Being bear aware helps protect Idahoans from potentially dangerous interactions, and protects bears who call Idaho home. 

Check out this guide from the National Park Service to learn more about being bear aware!

For more information on recreating responsibly, planning your next Idaho adventure, and ways to stand up for Idaho’s public lands – sign up for our email updates here.